Comparing each 2017 Chevrolet Camaro model with its Chevrolet Performance modified counterpart

Benjamin Hunting - Dec 5, 2016, 8:00am CST
Comparing each 2017 Chevrolet Camaro model with its Chevrolet Performance modified counterpart

In October, I had the chance to put some laps on the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, an amazing track facility located about an hour outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. I flew in a few days before that particular event, however, so that I could also sample the full range of Chevrolet Performance parts now available for the current-generation coupe and convertible.

We were given several laps in both modified and completely stock versions of each drivetrain: turbocharged four-cylinder, 3.6-liter V6, and of course the 6.2-liter V8 found in the Camaro SS. Although some of the sessions were cut short, or were run at lower speeds to accommodate drivers of different skill levels, I was able to move the cars around on track just enough to get a feel for what the mods brought to the table.

It’s a rare opportunity to drive a modified and factory stock car back-to-back on the same stretch of tarmac, and I’ve gathered my impressions of each model below. You can watch a video of the track session in the various Chevrolet Camaros as well, and judge for yourself how they handled the track.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS w/8-speed automatic transmission – stock

I’ve elected to go through the list in the order I drove the cars, so you can get a feel for how my impressions progressed throughout the day. The stock version of the Camaro SS was quite good on the track, with the primary difference being more – but not excessive – body roll, as compared to the modified model. You can notice it most in the section of the video through the slalom. It’s also not as loud as the version with the performance exhaust, but unless you are shifting yourself (which I wasn’t in this auto-equipped car), you’re not likely to be put off by the still-fun tailpipe note from the mighty 6.2-liter V8. The first session was quite low-key, as we were learning the track with a slower group ahead of us.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS w/8-speed automatic transmission – modified

Modifications:
Performance air intake
Performance exhaust
6-piston Brembo front brake kit
Suspension lowering kit
Suspension handling kit
V8 strut tower brace
LT1 V8 engine cover, red

The chassis in the Camaro SS is very well sorted, and the additional bracing and lowering springs only reinforced that impression, but as with the stock car, what stood out for me the most was just how competent the eight-speed automatic was at deciding when and where to shift. I stopped using the paddles, eventually, and just let the algorithm handle things.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro V6 2LT RS Package w/6-speed manual transmission – stock

The V6 edition of the Camaro has been lauded for its fun quotient in a track situation, what with its 335 horsepower finally freed up from the lower RPM driving typical on the street. Where it fell apart for me, as compared to the SS, was in quick lateral transitions, where you can easily see the Camaro V6 get bent out of shape. Again, the slalom is telling, as it’s one of the few times I had traction control actually activate while I was driving in an attempt to reel in the excessive roll. The session ended early, but you can clearly witness the pitch in the front end of the coupe as I move through that section in the video.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro V6 2LT RS Package w/6-speed manual transmission – modified

Modifications:
Performance air intake
Performance exhaust
6-piston Brembo front brake kit
Suspension lowering kit
Suspension handling kit
LGC V6 engine cover, red
Short-throw shifter

The suspension modifications offered through Chevrolet Performance were a revelation. The V6 finally felt nice and flat in all situations, with the slalom showing dramatically better control through each transition. Definitely worth the investment for owners who are serious about performance. While I missed the straight line speed of the SS, the V6 is definitely no slouch.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro 2LT with 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo w/6-speed manual transmission – stock

Is it a cliché to place the least-powerful car at the bottom of the list? There’s 275 horses and 295 lb-ft of torque sitting under the hood of the entry-level Chevrolet Camaro, but getting them all to come out and play at the same time isn’t any fun at all. On the street the power seems relatively mighty because it comes on low in the rev range, but on the track I felt like I was asking the four-cylinder to punch above its weight every time I wound it out up to the redline. Handling was akin to the stock V6, with a bit less weight in the equation.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro 2LT with 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo w/6-speed manual – modified

Modifications:
Performance exhaust
6-piston Brembo front brake kit
Suspension lowering kit
Suspension handling kit
Wicker bill spoiler kit
LTG 4-cylinder engine cover, red
Short-throw shifter
Recaro front seats

Flatter? For sure. Fun? No, not really. None of the modifications from the Chevrolet Performance catalog could overcome the character of the 2.0-liter motor, which was designed to be more frugal than it is free-spirited. I also found the gearing in the 6-speed manual didn’t do the turbo any favors, as it was clear that the top three ratios were really oriented towards economy above all else. If you’re looking for the most affordable, yet still fun flavor of Camaro, you’re definitely going to want to aim for the V6 and add as many high performance suspension parts as you can afford.


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